The conversation is changing at trade shows around the value of qualified installers. Of the last five trade shows I’ve been in the past several months, a full three of them have featured seminars or discussions that posed the question: “How do we attract quality installers—and keep them?”
Obviously, change comes slowly. While new installation products are out on the market all the time, the age-old mentality of “I’ve been doing this the same way for 20 years; why should I change now?” still persists. Likewise, the sudden increase of public fretting in needing more quality installers is not going to result in a dramatic increase in labor prices. It should (it’s long overdue)—but it won’t. At least not yet.
Frankly, this whole situation is a little frustrating. Installers have been telling me for years how comparatively little they make, and how hard it is to attract new talent to the field when the incentive isn’t there and people driven by job quantity over quality are a dime a dozen. Many installation professionals have felt like second-class citizens, relegated to the retailer’s backroom and barely acknowledged until it’s time to visit the customer’s house (a stance that has never made sense to me). This crisis could have been worked on and dealt with years ago. But, for whatever reason, now things have reached a tipping point. Fists are being pounded against tables, heads are being scratched, and retailers, contractors and other flooring professionals are finally reacting to the reality that they have been warned about for years.
So yes, I’m a little annoyed that it’s taken so long. But at the same time, I’m glad this conversation is finally happening. While at the recent International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association’s (CFI) annual meeting in Dallas, the excitement, hope and potential coursing through the room was palpable. This was the group’s first show since being acquired by the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) earlier last year, and the impression I got from attendees was CFI will be given free rein to push themselves not only to their limits, but beyond.
During the event, the word “clout” kept coming up—installers finally have the clout to make some lasting changes to the industry; CFI has the clout to grow exponentially. What “clout” really means in this instance is “We’re finally being listened to!”
I hope what comes out of this is installers will finally be paid their fair share and become a relevant part of the sales conversation instead of a footnote. My other big hope? That after the dust and smoke of this current crisis are cleared away, people still remember to treat installers fairly—and with respect.